Macron: France will defend freedom of expression

"I am not going to change our laws because they shock elsewhere" Macron says in a wide-ranging interview

16 November 2020
By Connexion journalist

France will stand firm on defending the right to freedom of expression even if it 'upsets others', President Emmanuel Macron has said.

"Five years ago, when those who drew the caricatures were killed, the whole world marched in Paris and defended these rights," he said in an interview with Le Grand Continent.

"This year, a teacher’s throat was slit, other people’s throats were slit. Many condolences were discreet and we had, in a structured way, political and religious leaders from one part of the Muslim world – who intimidated the other side, I must say – saying, 'They should just change their laws'.

Read more: President Macron vows: ‘We will continue’ for Samuel Paty

"That shocks me ... I am for respect for cultures, for civilisations, but I am not going to change our laws because they shock elsewhere.

He went on: "It is precisely because hatred is forbidden under our European values and that the dignity of the human person prevails over all else, that I can shock you, because you can shock me in return.

"We can discuss it and argue because we will never come to blows, since that is prohibited and human dignity is paramount.

"And here we are accepting that leaders, religious leaders, should draw a line of equivalence between what shocks and a representation, and the death of a man and a terrorist act – they have done it – and that we should be intimidated enough not to dare to condemn that."

President Macron also recently criticised American newspaper The New York Times about its coverage of recent terror attacks in France, accusing English-language media of 'legitimising' violence.

“When France was attacked five years ago,every nation in the world supported us,” President Macron said in an interview published in the paper, referring to the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015.

“So when I see, in that context, several newspapers which I believe are from countries that share our values — journalists who write in a country that is the heir to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution — when I see them legitimising this violence, and saying that the heart of the problem is that France is racist and Islamophobic, then I say the founding principles have been lost.”

He went on to accuse the US media of trying to 'impose their values on a different society', and of not fully understanding the French concept of laïcité, "an active separation of church and state, which dates from the early 20th century".

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